A BJP leader accused in a rioting case and a villager whose son was killed in a communal clash have been given tickets by the saffron party for the Chhattisgarh assembly polls scheduled next month. While the opposition BJP in Chhattisgarh has justified its decision to field these two candidates, a political observer said communalism may feature in the state poll campaign this time.

Asked whether the BJP was trying to raise the issue of communal violence by giving these tickets, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, ”No matter how hard they try, it will not be an issue.” Ishwar Sahu, whose son was killed in a communal clash in Biranpur village of Bemetara district in April this year, has been fielded from Saja assembly constituency, while Vijay Sharma, the BJP leader who was named as accused in an incident of rioting in adjoining Kabirdham district in 2021, will contest from Kawardha seat. The two names featured in the BJP’s second list of 64 candidates released on Monday.

The BJP has so far declared candidates for 85 out of the total 90 assembly seats in the state, which will see voting in two phases on November 7 and 17. Talking to reporters, Ishwar Sahu said, I would like to thank the BJP which has given a chance to a poor man to become its member. They have given me such a big responsibility and I will fulfil it with complete dedication.” ”When my son was murdered, all the Hindu brothers supported me and came to my house and stood by me in my sorrow and pain. I will visit every Hindu brother’s house and beg for justice for my son, he added.

Ishwar Sahu’s son Bhuneshwar Sahu (22) was killed in the violence which erupted in Biranpur, located 100 km from state capital Raipur, in Saja assembly constituency (Bemetara district) on April 8 after an altercation between some school children from two communities. On April 11, a man, Rahim Mohammad (55), and his son Idul Mohammad (35), residents of Biranpur, were found murdered a few kilometers away from the village with multiple injuries on their bodies. The district administration then imposed section 144 of the CrPC, which bars assembly of four or more people, for nearly 20 days in the village. The Chhattisgarh government later announced to give a government job and financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of Sahu, but the family did not accept the money. According to district officials, Ishwar Sahu had said he will think over the government job after his younger son attains the age of 18 years.

However, Sahu accepted a cheque of Rs 11 lakh handed over to him by the BJP. Chhattisgarh BJP chief Arun Sao, former chief minister Raman Singh and other senior party leaders had visited Sahu’s house. On Monday, the state BJP in a post on X said, Congratulations to Shri Ishwar Sahu, who is father of Sanatani youth late Bhuneshwar Sahu killed in Biranpur, for being nominated as the BJP candidate.

Saja seat is currently held by senior Congress leader and state Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey, an influential Brahmin leader and a seven-term MLA. The BJP has also fielded Vijay Sharma, a rioting case accused who is a member of Kabirdham Zila panchayat and general secretary of the state party unit, from Kawardha seat (Kabirdham district).

On October 3, 2021, a clash broke out between people belonging to two communities over removal of religious flags from a thoroughfare in Kawardha town. Two days later, right wing outfits took out a rally in the town in protest against the incident during which violence took place. BJP MP Santosh Pandey, former parliamentarian Abhishek Singh and Vijay Sharma were among those named in the FIR registered on charges of rioting, abetting the riot and others provisions in connection with the violence. Sharma was arrested and later released on bail.

The Kawardha seat is currently represented by Mohammad Akbar, a prominent Muslim leader from the Congress and state forest minister. A four-time MLA, Akbar contested from this seat for the first time in 2018 and won by a big margin of 59,284 votes against BJP’s Ashok Sahu, a former MLA, despite the seat having a sizeable population of Sahus. Asked about the BJP’s strategy to field Ishwar Sahu and Vijay Sharma, senior BJP MLA Dharamlal Kaushik told PTI, We want justice for the victim’s family in the Biranpur incident and for the victim’s side in the Kawardha incident. We have tried to ensure justice to them by nominating the two candidates for the polls.

Kaushik further hit out at the Congress and said the grand old party and its INDIA bloc allies have been abusing Sanatan Dharma and talking about destroying it. People will give them (Congress and its allies) a befitting reply in every election, he added.

Queried whether the BJP was trying to raise the issue of communal violence by giving tickets to Sahu and Sharma, CM Baghel on Monday said, ”No matter how hard they try, it will not be an issue. There were other BJP workers in Saja (from where Sahu has been fielded). He (Sahu) is a purely non-political person.” The Congress had earlier accused the BJP of doing communal politics for want of real issues. Political expert R Krishna Das said communalism had never been an issue in the state politics, but this time it is likely to feature during the campaign.

He said the BJP has been aggressively targeting the Congress government, accusing it of practising appeasement politics and claiming it to be the government of ’Bhupesh-Akbar-Dhebar’ (referring to state minister Mohammad Akbar and Raipur Mayor Aijaz Dhebar). The selection of candidates in Saja and Kawardha indicates the party may raise the the issue of communal violence during the upcoming elections to woo voters in the state’s central region, largely inhabited by the OBC population, he added.


(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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